June 5, 2017
Kei Nishikori exhaled heavily with relief, looked up to the skies and wondered how on earth he was through to face Andy Murray after such a dreadful start.
Fernando Verdasco had apparently shattered the spirit of the talented Japanese with a 6-0 first-set drubbing – or so he might have thought.
But in reality Nishikori is made of sterner stuff, and began to rebuild. Having been caught cold, the eighth seed started to find a rhythm and rediscovered his customary balance on both sides…then slowly took control.
Three sets later it was over, as a dejected Verdasco hit unnecessarily long. An exhausted-looking Nishikori had finished the match the way it had begun – but with the tables well and truly turned.
To win 0-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 against Verdasco, who never seems to make it past the fourth round but enjoyed another impressive tournament overall , was a considerable achievement.
Murray will provide an altogether trickier test, however, and one that might prove too much for Nishikori, judging by the way the world number one has improved of late.
The Wimbledon title-holder followed up his excellent victory over Juan Martin del Potro by staying in command throughout against the very promising Karen Khachanov.
The tall Russian is one to keep an eye on for the future though, and could be a Grand slam champion one day, if he irons out all the rough edges sooner rather than later.
However, Murray wasn’t in the mood to allow the 21-year-old to take too much confidence out of this clash, as he cruised through 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to notch his 650th Tour-level victory in two hours and four minutes.
After victory, however, Murray admitted generously: ‘By the end of the year he could be top 20 or 25, and then who knows?’
But the likeable Brit was more anxious to recognise the suffering that has taken place back home in recent weeks.
Andy said:’It was a terrible tragedy in London and also in Manchester a few weeks ago.
‘Paris has had some problems in the last few years and I’m sure everyone will join me in sharing the fact that our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this.
‘I appreciate everyone still coming out to support us and I’m grateful to be able to perform in front of you.’
Tennis lovers have been richly rewarded in Paris so far, as they will be in London at Wimbledon 2017. The action is really starting to hot up – and nothing will beat the atmosphere at Wimbledon.
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